105 Solar Plexus

Martin knew that Martinelli would have handled this interview differently, more nice than nasty cop, to cut to the chase. Martin couldn’t stand how long it sometimes took Martinelli to get to the point. Now, he realized he needed to slow down if he were going to extract anything useful from the struggling, solar plexed man before him, anything other than the equally obvious certainty that this picture was meaning a lot to Hans.

“The car was registered to this address.” Martin started again with a fact.Chapter 105 Solar Plexus

“Suppose so. Never paid any attention. It’s his car. He used my space.” Hans was getting his wind back, thinking how to respond, his disbelief in Kitty’s treachery coursing to hatred. She had pre-signed just the other day. Closing was imminent. She must have sent the picture, a picture that she really had taken, after she knew that there was no going back on the deal, the real estate one anyway. He was an idiot to think that she would keep her word.

“When did you last see him, speak to him?”

“Last week. He came over to collect some of his things before I move.”

“You were ending your arrangement?”

“That had already happened. He’s living somewhere else. He mentioned roommates, I don’t know where. We didn’t discuss it.”

“You have his phone number, or an e-contact, then?”

“His e-mail is through work.”

“Are you aware that he’s been laid-off?”

“No.”

“What’s his cell?” Hans decided it would be easiest to give Martin the number, show he had nothing to hide. Peter didn’t have to answer, could deal with it, his end. Hans was done with Peter. He rattled it off by heart.

Even as he did this, Han realized that the cops would surely go after Peter. Being laid-off would be a problem for Peter, who always lived month to month. Hans was surprised that Peter hadn’t called him, asking for money. No point really then, in giving Peter a heads-up call. The cops would be right behind. He wondered what version Peter might end up telling. Hans tried to phrase his question to Martin.

“Does this picture necessarily have to come out? I mean, will you show it around to other people here?”

“What do you mean?” Martin was vague; he hoped for some disclosure.

“Well, I still live here, I’m on the board, I have regular clients. The association has no responsibility, according to our attorney. I had nothing to do with Mangold’s death. Peter is gone. Why should my reputation suffer?”

“We’re investigating a suspicious death, a tampering incident and subsequent serious injury. Police interest in your reputation is secondary. When do you move across the hall?” Martin observed the packing and painting.

“Miss Doyle has already signed off on her unit. I requested her permission to get in and start painting but she refused. We’re…I’m stashing as much as I can and working around it ahead of the closing, when I sign with my own lender, and the money changes hands. Then, it’s mine.”

“Who’s ‘we'”?

“The Cabots and I are co-ordinating our moves. Miss Doyle is the stumbling block.” Hans heard himself echoing the time-honored phrase, ‘You can say that again!’ Martin was thinking, ‘Boy, you can say that again!’

A corridor in a condo high-rise. An association sometimes provides shopping carts for the convenience of residents moving items or transporting between garage, or foyer and unit

A corridor in a condo high-rise. An association sometimes provides shopping carts for the convenience of residents moving items or transporting between garage, or foyer, and unit.

“Signed off? Does that mean she’s moved out, for good?”

“Yes. It’s empty. She’s being mean, as usual.” Truer words were never spoken, Hans bitterly reflected. Martin wanted to laugh out loud. Hans didn’t know the half of it. Martin had specifically asked Kitty to leave a forwarding address.

“Where’s she gone?”

“I haven’t a clue,” Hans blurted out. “Sorry. I mean I don’t know. My contact with her on this transaction is through her attorney’s office. If I never had anything to do with her again…” Hans trailed off, not wishing to appear antagonistic, and handed over an extra business card that had arrived in a packet for him from that office. Martin read ‘White, Choyce, and Wong’ before he pocketed it. And he thought he and Martinelli were bad in the pun department; this firm’s name put them both at the back of the class.

“You could try her boyfriend. He lives here, too.” Hans mentioned Greg’s name and unit. For a board member, Martin reflected as he left the POPS, Hans knew squat about what went on here, even though he knew Mrs. James fairly well, too. Either she really wasn’t much of a gossip, or Hans didn’t listen very well.

In fact, Hans did know all about the dead flowers and the ceiling repair. He just didn’t know about the break-up. Hans hadn’t said a word to Martin about it being Kitty behind the camera, threatening to send in the picture, what had at last sent the vindictive Kitty to the mailbox. For all he knew, the cops already knew where the photo had come from. It stuck in his craw that this would hurt him more than it hurt her. It was so not fair that she got to stay out of this and he didn’t. He could imagine her telling them in a fake voice that she was only sending them additional information, like they were asking for.

All Hans had wanted was to get Martin away, off on some other scent, deliberately avoiding telling Martin anything about his last evening with Peter, or what Peter had revealed. The cop hadn’t seemed interested in searching his place. So much had been moved and boxed up or painted over that Hans figured there would truly be nothing left of Rusty or Peter to find.

Sebastian was out of town and Hans was restless without his steadying presence. Lying in bed, staring into the dark, he couldn’t understand why he was overcome with an urgency to change his mind, to call Peter. He so wanted to be faithful to someone. How could he be faithful to somebody else, when he was having trouble being faithful to his concept of who he was himself? Was he a better friend than he’d imagined himself to be, or was he just so weak? He didn’t know. He called Peter’s cell number, that he’d just faithlessly given the cop and while it rang, mentally prepared a message to leave, such was his previous success with that number. Peter picked up.

“Hans, I’m here.” Loud music was thumping in the background.

“Where’s here?”

“I’m in a bar.”

“Obviously. I mean, I heard that you were laid-off. Are you still in town?”

“No. Chucked it. Why do you care?”

“Police have that picture, you remember the one?”

“Shit. The Doyle creature. Is it bad?”

“Your car’s in the space, with a date stamp and time.”

“Total bitch. Can you see me in it?”

“No, but what’s the diff? Listen, I gave the cops this number. What will you say?”

“What did you say?”

“That you were gone long before, that you came over to pick up some things afterwards.” Hans heard another coaxing voice, close to Peter’s phone. “Hans, good to talk but I have to go.” Hans had been there before, knew exactly what was happening. He didn’t want to be like Peter.